The “X” in “Xmas” Doesn’t Take the “Christ” Out of “Christmas”

Daven Hiskey 21
Myth: “Xmas” is a non-religious name / spelling for “Christmas”.

It turns out, “Xmas” is not a non-religious version of “Christmas”. The “X” is actually indicating the Greek letter “Chi”, which is short for the Greek, meaning “Christ”. So “Xmas” and “Christmas” are equivalent in every way except their lettering.

In fact, although writing guides such as those issued by the New York Times; the BBC; The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style; and Oxford Press discourage the use of Xmas in formal writing, at one time, it was a very popular practice, particularly with religious scribes, who are thought to have started the whole “Xmas” thing in the first place. Indeed, the practice of using the symbol “X” in place of Christ’s name has been going on amongst religious scholars for at least 1000 years.

Eventually, this shorthand trick spread to non-religious writings where nearly everywhere “Christ” appeared in a word, the Greek Chi would replace that part of the word. For example, in the 17th and 18th centuries, there are numerous non-religious documents containing instances of “Xine”, which was a common spelling for someone whose name was Christine.

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Bonus Facts:

  • The “-mas” part on the end of Christmas and Xmas comes from the Old English word for “mass”.
  • Other classic common abbreviations for “Christ” were: “Xp” and “Xt”, again both an abbreviated form of the Greek for Christ.
  • The Greek letters “X” (Chi) and “p” (Rho) superimposed together was once a very common symbol signifying Christ and was called, somewhat unimaginatively, the Chi-Rho.
  • The Chi-Rho was also used by scribes in a non-religious sense to mark some passage that was particularly good, with it literally implying “good”.
  • In 1977, the Governor of New Hampshire issued a press release stating that journalists should cease taking the “Christ” out of “Christmas” as “Xmas” was a pagan spelling of Christmas. Perhaps he should have run that press release by a religious scholar before issuing it. :-)
  • Although, even those well versed and respected in Christianity often make the same mistake, such as Franklin Graham in an interview on CNN: “For us as Christians, this is one of the most holy of the holidays, the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. And for people to take Christ out of Christmas. They’re happy to say merry Xmas. Let’s just take Jesus out. And really, I think, a war against the name of Jesus Christ.”

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21 Comments »

  1. Dzony April 11, 2012 at 12:00 am - Reply

    Christ is not even a name a correct name, it came from greek “christos” that means “anointed”
    Jesus Christ actually means Jesus Anointed One

  2. TSKarinaXteria November 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    We already knew the ‘X’ in X-mass stood for christ.
    Haven’t you heard Christina Aguilera fans call her “X-tina”?
    Here’s another fact. Christmas originates from the pagan tradition of Saturnalia. The christians wanted to have fun too, so “Christmas” was brought about and they just sorta ‘played along’. So don’t think you’re being smart because I too am happily celebrating this wonderful pagan tradition of giving and receiving gifts and having a good time. lol.

  3. rania December 4, 2012 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    christmas tree & some festivities r pagan and were added to christmas, that doesnt take away from its meaning TSKarinaXteria…just because you dont get it doesnt mean ppl will stop celebrating Christs birthday
    maybe but not the celebration, go get your facts right before you infect ignorant minds…I don’t know why ppl like you who dont beleive have to always rain on ppl parades…stop being angry and go do some real research

    MErry Christmas !!!

    thanks for the clarification for X but I prefer Christmas to X

  4. Putnam Finch November 28, 2013 at 5:46 am - Reply

    They stole pagan holidays like X mas and easter- where in that ridiculous comic book does it say chocolate or egg or bunny or any of the things most commonly associated with these holidays? It doesn’t. The entire religion is stolen piecemeal, right on down to that silly je$u$ character.
    And if you want to cry about raining on people’s parades, ask the millions of people that are subjugated and killed every day in the name of your superstition. Human rights are violated every day, people in Africa die from aids every day because the pope says condoms are evil. People are killed for being witches (YES this still happens) based on the words in your good book. To pretend that being against human rights violations perpetuated by religion every day means that you don’t know about them or don’t care.

  5. zack December 6, 2013 at 9:44 am - Reply

    merry reefmas!!!! lol

  6. Andrew December 8, 2013 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Where did you come up with this nonsense? For starters, the Greek alphabet has been around 800 years longer than Jesus, so if any correlation has occurred it would be that ‘Christ’, like almost everything else in Christianity, was derived or taken from the Greek letter. Now, obvious fact notwithstanding, if the authors of this article actually new anything about history, which clearly they don’t, they’d know that the reason Jesus’ name is “Christ” is because the the most common language spoken around Jesus’ time was Aramaic and Latin, the Latin language being spoken predominantly by scholars, which subsequently uses the Greek alphabet as its base, hence the use of the letter X. Seriously, when Christians don’t know the answer to something do they just make it up in hope no one with a basic education will find out?

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey December 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm - Reply

      @Andrew: This article has nothing to do with the history of the Greek language nor why humans started calling Jesus “Christ”. It has to do with when the practice of substituting “X” for “Christ” started.

  7. Joseph December 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    i feel as a christian we should take Christ out of christ-mass because this holiday was never christian to begin with but a mixture of the Roman Pagan winter solstice and the Germanic Pagan holiday of Yule which is why their is a Decorated Yule tree,wreaths presents, Santa Clause, and yule logs. all dealing with the false god odin who was depicted with a long white beard and gave presents during the winter season. catholics to keep pagans from worshiping theird gods adopted their holidays and christianized it to convert the pagans and then allowing the to keep their same traditions and practices while stamping Gods name on it. this is heresy and corruption even with christian liberty we should separate ourselves from our pagan roots and worship and celebrate God His way not like the world celebrate their gods. Dueteronomy 12:30-33. separate yourselves from the worlds traditions and practices and feasts as they do it to their gods they made with their own hands.

  8. Loriann Witte December 23, 2013 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    I’m glad to know this, Xmas is a short convenient abbreviation for Christmas. I don’t want to be offensive by using unacceptable language.

  9. justme December 26, 2013 at 4:27 am - Reply

    Ppl get offended too easily… you are all silly.
    I wonder if when Jesus returns if he will be speaking southern babtist English or the language of his birthplace?

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